Everything You Need to Build a Winter Capsule Wardrobe That’s Both Chic *and* Warm

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A winter capsule wardrobe is a beautiful thing, especially when it’s carefully constructed from beautiful basics and simple staples you can rely on. But good design aside, the real benefit of a streamlined closet is that each piece can be mixed and matched with ease, leaving you with a multitude of outfits that can be thrown together in three minutes (or less). That’s definitely something to look forward to on days when the wind chill makes it feel like -4°F and your morning routine goes off the rails. Here, to help you organize, the only ten pieces you need to build out a chic and warm winter wardrobe.

Meet the Expert

Lauren Nelson is a stylist for Stitch Fix, a personal styling service based in the U.S. and U.K. She has worked there for nearly a decade.

How to Build a Winter Capsule Wardrobe

The point of a capsule wardrobe is that it makes getting dressed easier for you. “The goal is to alleviate the overwhelming feeling of having too many options to pick from,” says Lauren Nelson, a stylist for Stitch Fix. “Surprisingly, having fewer options to pick from can also spark more creativity in putting together what you plan to wear.” (Think jewelry, but also—come wintertime—saturated shades and rich textures for scarves, hats and gloves.)

Building out a winter capsule wardrobe is also an approach that’s rooted in practicality. In fact, Nelson like to think of it as building out an intentional wardrobe—a mix of high-quality, timeless pieces that can be worn for years to come. But that doesn’t mean you can’t infuse individuality. If you prefer a lightweight puffer over a wool peacoat, by all means make that swap. And just because neutrals like black, gray, beige and white are generally the easiest to mix and match, that doesn’t mean you can’t opt for bright colors or prints that pop instead if that’s more your style. In other words, feel free to adjust any of the items on this list to meet your needs.

Now, here are the winter capsule wardrobe questions to ask yourself to get started:

What Are Your Current Go-To Pieces?

If you already find yourself reaching for midi skirts and chunky turtlenecks four days a week, then that’s probably a great place to start when building out your winter capsule wardrobe. Conversely, consider what basics are currently missing from your closet and why. For instance, do you wear skirts rather than jeans because you don’t love the feel of denim on your skin, or is it because all your old jeans just don’t fit quite right anymore?

What Does Your Daily Schedule Actually Entail?

Are you heading into the office for meetings with clients or to a lecture hall for classes? Are you running errands all over town or all around the house trying to keep up with your two-year-old? Stock your closet mostly with pieces that work for those occasions—sleek trousers and blazers for work, comfortable shoes for walking and warm leggings for days on the go—so you won’t run out of options by Wednesday.

What is Your Wardrobe Missing?

Once you’ve established what you already own and love, it’s time to fill in the gaps. Replace those jeans that don’t fit quite right, invest in a true winter coat and update your shoe selection to include pairs that are both comfortable and ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store. Nelson adds, “Regardless of your location, finding a mix of style and functionality is crucial throughout the season.”

‘90s Minimalism Is the Perfect Winter Trend for Capsule Wardrobe Lovers

10 Pieces to Buy for a Winter Capsule Wardrobe

A woman wearing a chunky knit sweater over black leggings and carrying a white structured handbag.
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

1. Oversize Sweaters

Consider a big, roomy sweater to be sleepwear you can wear in public. Because yes, oversize knits are that comfy. Toss one on over jeans, faux-leather leggings or even a sweaterdress when your mind says “sleep” but your schedule says “hustle.”

Shop similar styles:Abercrombie & Fitch Alpaca-Blend Sweater ($130); Jenni Kayne Alpaca Cocoon Sweater ($345); Madewell Loretto Mockneck Sweater ($98); Free People Ottoman Slouchy Tunic Sweater ($168); Quince Baby Alpaca-Wool Crew Sweater ($50)

A model wears a long black wool coat and matching white sweatsuit for a walk in Paris.
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

2. A Wool Coat

Less bulky than a parka and more refined than a puffer, a wool coat is an outward projection of the chic outfit underneath (even if you’re too bundled to see it). Top it off with a cashmere beanie or beret and you won’t have to worry about your hair either. Simply opt for an unfussy color—think ivory, gray or black—and keep the silhouette streamlined so your outerwear can be as versatile as possible. And make sure it’s roomy enough to fit over even your chunkiest knit.

Shop similar styles: Sandro Double-Breasted Wool Trench Coat ($845); Gentle Herd Single-Breasted Wool Longline Coat ($259); Boden Bristol Wool-Blend Coat ($320); Reformation Baker Coat ($398)

A woman wearing a white turtleneck under a navy blue cardigan sweater.
Streetstyleshooters/Getty Images

3. Layering Turtlenecks

These tissue-thin, T-shirt-inspired tops can be layered under oversize pullovers, slim-fit cardigans, tailored blazers or even dresses to give you an extra boost of warmth and color. While we generally suggest opting for neutral hues when buying the items on this list, this is one piece that we find is just as versatile in bright hues, contrasting stipes or bold patterns as it is in black or white.

Shop similar styles: J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck Tee ($40); Uniqlo Ultra-Light Turtleneck ($20); L.L.Bean Pima Cotton Turtleneck ($37); Splendid Classic Turtleneck ($60); Lands’ End Lightweight Turtleneck ($40)

winter capsule wardrobe ankle boots
Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

4. Ankle Boots (with Weather Resistance)

If you rock only one pair of shoes all winter, make it ankle boots. This super versatile shoe goes with everything (straight-leg jeans, sweaterdresses, you name it), and if you stick to a block heel, it’s comfy enough to wear everywhere the day takes you. Opt for a neutral color like black or dark brown to ensure these booties fit in seamlessly with the clothing you already own, and we strongly advise investing in a style that is either weather-resistant or weather-proof. That way you won’t have to stress if Mother Nature throws a mid-afternoon curve ball your way.

Shop similar styles: Nordstrom Miller Water-Resistant Chelsea Boots ($100); La Canadienne Joanie Waterproof Booties ($525); Cole Haan Water-Resistant Greenwich Booties ($225); Nisolo Water-Resistant Dari Commuter Boots ($250; $225); Sam Edelman Waterproof Laguna Chelsea Boots ($170)

Eva Chen wearing brown leather pants and a coordinating light brown sweater with pointed shoes.
Kristin Sinclair/Getty Images

5. Faux-Leather Pants

Comfier and warmer than blue jeans, faux-leather pants are the perfect item to wear when you need to be out the door by 8 a.m. and won’t be home until after happy hour. Keep your eyes out for a straight cut that feels modern when worn with simple boots or white sneakers. You can also invest in some faux-leather leggings, which are easier to tuck into tall boots and are every bit as warm as their trouser cousins.

Shop similar styles: Good American Good Boy Faux Leather Pants ($189); Spanx Faux-Leather Leggings ($98); Abercrombie & Fitch Curve Love Vegan Leather 90s Straight Pant ($110); Wilfred Melina Faux-Leather Pants ($148; $74); Pistola Cassie Faux Leather Super High-Rise Straight-Leg Pants ($178)

A woman wearing a black puffer coat and black leggings on a walk in NYC.
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

6. Matte Black Leggings

Even if you already own a pair of faux-leather leggings, it’s a good idea to also have a few pairs of matte black leggings for more casual looks. Fleece-lined pairs are great for slipping on under a long sweater and tall boots, while thinner leggings can be worn under dresses or even jeans for some bonus warmth while you’re out and about. Be sure to choose styles that go all the way down to your ankle to prevent any skin from showing, and opt for sleek minimalist designs over those with pockets or extra seams for a streamlined, leg-lengthening look.

Shop similar styles: Vuori Chilled Out Legging ($128); Pari Passu Goldie Leggings ($78); Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Leggings ($78); Zella Live In High-Waist Leggings ($59); ALO Airlift Leggings ($128; $89); Everlane Perform Legging ($68)

A woman wearing a beige blanket scarf and brown plaid wool coat talks on the phone while walking in NYC
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

7. A Blanket Scarf

When your outfit feels like it needs a little something extra, whether it’s another layer or an additional accessory, throw on a blanket scarf. Not only will it dress up your wool coat, but it will also function as a chic wrap once you remove that top layer. You’d do best to avoid any scarf with sparkles, wild prints or colors that could clash with anything currently in your closet. The simpler the better.

Shop similar styles: Quince Mongolian Cashmere Wrap ($100); Arctic Fox & Co. Stockholm Scarf ($54); Everlane Cashmere Scarf ($140; $98); Sézane Louise Scarf ($110)

A woman wearing a cream and navy stripe sweater and dark wash skinny jeans.
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

8. Dark-Wash Straight- or Skinny-Leg Denim

Dark jeans are dressy enough for many office settings, and the slim cut means they can be styled with almost every kind of shoe: Tuck them into knee-high boots, step into stilettos or pair them with combat boots. The options are endless.

Shop similar styles: Good American Good Legs Skinny Jeans ($99); Mother Tomcat High-Rise Straight-Leg Ankle Jeans ($258); Universal Standard Seine Skinny Jeans ($98); DL1961 Farrow High-Rise Intrasculpt Ankle Jeans ($179); Frame Le Crop Mini Boot Jeans ($225)

A woman wearing a black and white printed sweater dress and white combat boots in Milan.
Valentina Frugiuele/Getty Images

9. A Midi-or Knee-Length Sweater Dress

A cozy sweaterdress is a great mid-way point between dressy and comfy. And opting for a mid- or knee-length ensures you won’t feel lost under all that material. A shorter length also makes it easier to layer leggings or slim-fit pants underneath for bonus warmth without looking disproportionate. In fact, we highly suggest looking around at both chunkier knits in loose silhouettes as well as thinner styles that hug your curves to give you multiple options throughout the season.

Shop similar styles: Reformation Evan Cashmere Sweater Dress ($378); Frank & Eileen Isabelle Funnel Neck Dress ($298); Me + Em Marino Cashmere Swing Dress ($465); Madewell Ribbed Mini Sweater Dress ($138)

A woman wearing a plaid blazer over a white turtleneck and yellow trousers.
Streetstyleshooters/Getty Images

10. A Boyfriend Blazer

A power suit is always a good choice, but don’t be afraid to break up the set and let your blazer soak up the spotlight. Look for a slightly oversize, more relaxed silhouette to bring unstuffy sophistication to jeans and tees. A looser fit will also make it easier to layer sweaters underneath on extra chilly days. Much like the layering turtlenecks above, you can’t go wrong with black, white or beige, but we find plaid, tweed or even pinstripes to be just as versatile.

Shop similar styles: Pari Passu Debi Blazer ($348; $200); Lioness La Quinta Blazer ($71); Tuckernuck Houndstooth Wool Tweed Kensington Blazer ($378); Everlane Italian Wool Oversized Blazer ($228; $160)



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